New norms for the resignations of bishops

My spidey-sense has been tingling for a while now.  Given recent events and developments (e.g., the havoc of the latest Synod and the surprise outcomes) I have suspected that perhaps a few bishops in different regions around the world might suddenly have to retire for reasons of health or be removed from office.

Today I see in the Bollettino that His Holiness Pope Francis has approved a new set of norms governing resignations from offices by bishops and others who are appointed by the Roman Pontiff.

Are the norms strikingly different from previous law?   Not so much.  But timing is not to be discounted.

“Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi” sulla rinuncia dei Vescovi diocesani e dei titolari di uffici di nomina pontificia, 05.11.2014

Il Santo Padre Francesco, nell’Udienza concessa al sottoscritto Cardinale Segretario di Stato il giorno 3 novembre 2014, ha approvato le disposizioni sulla rinuncia dei Vescovi diocesani e dei titolari di uffici di nomina pontificia.

Il Santo Padre ha altresì stabilito che quanto è stato deliberato abbia ferma e stabile validità, nonostante qualsiasi cosa contraria anche degna di particolare menzione, ed entri in vigore il giorno 5 novembre 2014, con la pubblicazione su “L’Osservatore Romano”, e, quindi, nel commentario ufficiale Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Dal Vaticano, 3 Novembre 2014.

Pietro Card. Parolin
Segretario di Stato

DISPOSIZIONI

SULLA RINUNCIA DEI VESCOVI DIOCESANI
E DEI TITOLARI DI UFFICI DI NOMINA PONTIFICIA

Il grave peso del ministero ordinato, da intendersi come servizio (diakonia) al Popolo santo di Dio, richiede, a coloro che sono incaricati di svolgerlo, di impegnarvi tutte le proprie energie. In particolare, il ruolo di Vescovo, posto di fronte alle sfide della società moderna, rende necessari una grande competenza, abilità e doti umane e spirituali.

A tale riguardo, i Padri del Concilio Vaticano II così si esprimevano nel decreto Christus Dominus: “Poiché il ministero pastorale dei vescovi riveste tanta importanza e comporta gravi responsabilità, si rivolge una calda preghiera ai vescovi diocesani e a coloro che sono ad essi giuridicamente equiparati, perché, qualora per la loro troppa avanzata età o per altra grave ragione, diventassero meno capaci di adempiere il loro compito, spontaneamente o dietro invito della competente autorità rassegnino le dimissioni dal loro ufficio. Da parte sua, la competente autorità, se accetta le dimissioni, provvederà sia ad un conveniente sostentamento dei rinunziatari, sia a riconoscere loro particolari diritti” (n. 21).

Rispondendo all’invito che il Concilio Vaticano II aveva espresso, il mio predecessore, il Beato Paolo VI, promulgò il 6 agosto 1966 il Motu proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae (AAS 58 (1966) 757-787) che al n. 11 della Pars Prima invitava vivamente i Vescovi e gli altri ad essi equiparati a “presentare spontaneamente, non più tardi dei 75 anni compiuti, la rinuncia all’ufficio“. Queste disposizioni furono poi accolte sia dai cann. 401-402 e 411 del vigente Codice di Diritto Canonico, sia dai cann. 210-211, 218 e 313 del Codice dei Canoni delle Chiese Orientali.

Uguale criterio venne anche seguito relativamente a funzioni proprie dei Cardinali, mediante il Motu proprio Ingravescentem aetatemdel Beato Paolo VI del 21 novembre 1970 (AAS 62 (1970) 810-813) e, più in generale relativamente alle funzioni dei Vescovi che prestano il loro servizio nella Curia Romana, con le sagge disposizioni che San Giovanni Paolo II volle inserire nell’art. 5 della Costituzione apostolica Pastor bonus del 28 giugno 1988 (AAS 80 (1988) 841-930; cf. pure can. 354 CIC).

Prendendo in considerazione tutto quanto precede e accogliendo le raccomandazioni del Consiglio dei Cardinali che assistono il Santo Padre nella preparazione della riforma della Curia romana e nel governo della Chiesa, viene disposto quanto segue:

Art. 1.- È confermata la disciplina vigente nella Chiesa latina e nelle varie Chiese orientali sui iuris, secondo la quale i Vescovi diocesani ed eparchiali, e quanti sono loro equiparati dai cann. 381 §2 CIC e 313 CCEO, così come i Vescovi coadiutori e ausiliari, sono invitati a presentare la rinuncia al loro ufficio pastorale al compimento dei settantacinque anni di età.

Art. 2.- La rinuncia ai predetti uffici pastorali produce effetti soltanto dal momento in cui sia accettata da parte della legittima Autorità.

Art. 3.- Con l’accettazione della rinuncia ai predetti uffici, gli interessati decadono anche da qualunque altro ufficio a livello nazionale, conferito per un tempo determinato in ragione del suddetto incarico pastorale.

Art. 4.- Degno di apprezzamento ecclesiale è il gesto di chi, spinto dall’amore e dal desiderio di un miglior servizio alla comunità, ritiene necessario per infermità o altro grave motivo rinunciare all’ufficio di Pastore prima di raggiungere l’età di settantacinque anni. In tali casi i fedeli sono chiamati a manifestare solidarietà e comprensione per chi è stato loro Pastore, assistendolo puntualmente secondo le esigenze della carità e della giustizia, secondo quanto disposto del can. 402 §2 CIC.

Art. 5.- In alcune circostanze particolari l’Autorità competente può ritenere necessario chiedere a un Vescovo di presentare la rinuncia all’ufficio pastorale, dopo avergli fatto conoscere i motivi di tale richiesta ed ascoltate attentamente le sue ragioni, in fraterno dialogo.

Art. 6. – I Cardinali Capi Dicastero della Curia Romana e gli altri Cardinali che svolgono uffici di nomina pontificia sono ugualmente tenuti, al compimento del settantacinquesimo anno di età, a presentare la rinuncia al loro ufficio al Papa, il quale, ponderata ogni cosa, procederà.

Art. 7. – I Capi Dicastero della Curia Romana non Cardinali, i Segretari ed i Vescovi che svolgono altri uffici di nomina pontificia decadono dal loro incarico compiuto il settantacinquesimo anno di età; i Membri, raggiunta l’età di ottant’anni; tuttavia, quelli che appartengono ad un Dicastero in ragione di un altro incarico, decadendo da questo incarico, cessano anche di essere Membri.

[01739-01.01] [Testo originale: Italiano]

UPDATE:

Canonist extraordinaire Ed Peters comments on his blog In The Light Of The Law:

Notes on new norms for episcopal resignations
November 5, 2014

The Holy See’s new norms on episcopal resignations {Italian original here} are presented as a papal “rescript” (the term does not come first to mind per Canons 59 ff.) and not as a papal motu proprio (which these norms seem much more like). But whatever their canonical genre the new norms don’t seem to change much law regarding episcopal resignations. [As I said, above.]

Article 1 reiterates the import of Canons 401 and 411 whereby bishops are requested to resign at age 75. The vast majority of bishops submit their resignations at age 75, but the legislative history of Canon 401 (Peters, Incrementa, 364) leaves no doubt that such resignations are voluntary and, being voluntary, cannot be lawfully compelled.

Article 2 states that episcopal resignations are effective only upon acceptance, but one already knew that from Canon 189 etc. Oddly, the anomaly caused under Canon 189 § 3 (which goes to validity!) when episcopal resignations are submitted at age 75 but are not accepted by the Holy See until many months, sometimes years, later, is not addressed.

Article 3 asserts the concomitant loss of any national offices open only to sitting bishops upon their resignation from primary pastoral office. This resolves a mild ambiguity under Canon 450 in regard to membership in episcopal conferences, although the same result was apparent, I felt, from applying the plain meaning of Canons 134 and 376.

Article 4 on caring for retired bishops seems to say nothing that Canon 402 and Christian charity do not already make clear.

Article 5 [the one I highlighted… I knew there was something about it that didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it…] should cause some pause, not because it lays down any new rules (it does not, and instead simply states what ecclesiastical leadership has always been free to do, namely, to ask for episcopal resignations), but because it implicitly acknowledges that Roman requests (demands?) [two monsignors with Sicilian accents sit on either side of the bishop and one says, “We heara Eccellenza, data you sicka…”] for episcopal resignations are occurring much more often these days. Such actions, however, taken by several recent popes but [NB] without advertence to any process recognizable under canon law (e.g., Canons 192-196) raise serious canonical and indeed ecclesiological questions.* [No process.  Thus, no procedure for evidence, witnesses, counter evidence, judgment… just a chat over glasses of grappa?] While those concerns remain I must recall an observation made by Cdl Burke in another context: “The too rapid growth of practice without a clear and solid theoretical foundation has its most serious consequences in the confusion regarding the very foundations of law”. Burke, Lack of discretion of judgment (1986) at 85.

Article 6, requiring (quite licitly, to be sure), among others, cardinal heads of Roman dicasteries to submit their resignation at age 75 is already required under ap. con. Pastor Bonus (1988) art 5 § 2, though again I remind those concerned to note the import of Canon 189 § 3! In any case, perhaps this article is intended to reach a few cardinals holding curial offices not covered by Pastor bonus, though I do not know what those offices might be. The duties of cardinals in the election of the Roman Pontiff are undisturbed by Article 6.

+ + +

* From my Canon Law Facebook page, 2014 SEP 29: John Paul II did it once that I recall (Gaillot), Benedict XVI did it at least four times (Makaya Loembe, Morris, Micciché, and Bezák), and now Francis has done it (Livieres Plano), namely, effecting the removal of a bishop from office without observing a publically cognizable procedure. [BAMMO!] All six prelates indisputably held ecclesiastical offices “conferred for an indefinite period” (c. 193) and so all had a canonical right to a removal process “defined by law”. Alternatively, if their “privation” was carried out in response to canonical crime (c. 196) a penal process was required for its effect. While no norm expressly requires these procedures to be public, canon law does require that objective and fair processes be followed. Moreover, the Church’s traditional duty to be the “Speculum Iustitiae” (Mirror of Justice) for the world suggests that such procedures be understood by the wider faith community…

Transparency.

Like the transparency we saw during the Synod of Bishops?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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9 Responses to New norms for the resignations of bishops

  1. robtbrown says:

    About the only thing I saw that was new is that retired bishops can no longer be members of Curial Congregations or have positions of authority in episcopal conferences.

    Nb: I think Cardinal Murphy O’Connor stayed on the Cong of Bishops (?) after resigning as bishop of Westminster.

  2. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Yup, Pater. What’s normative isn’t new, and what’s new isn’t normative.

  3. lmgilbert says:

    A couple of things I don’t get. First, if this document is intended for the universal Church, why is it in Italian? Given that English is rapidly becoming the universal language of mankind, issuing official documents in Latin or Italian seems increasingly quaint. Our doctrine and discipline seems sufficiently strange to much of the world without the additional linguistic barrier.

    Secondly, Father, you write, “No process. Thus, no procedure for evidence, witnesses, counter evidence, judgment,” but are there any other occasions in the ordinary day to day life of the Church, marriage tribunals excepted, where there is judicial process? Not to my knowledge. If I am wronged by my bishop, pastor, or religious superior, what “process” is there other than writing a letter to his superior? To my knowledge there is no opportunity to produce witnesses, etc. There is no trial, and often enough in the experience of many Catholics there is no answer whatever.

    Thirdly, Google translate has ” Art. 5. In some circumstances the competent authority may find it necessary to ask a bishop to offer his resignation from the pastoral office, after having made known the reasons for the request and listen carefully to his reasons, in fraternal dialogue.” Should not “competent authority” simply have been, “the vicar of Christ,” or “the Bishop of Rome” or some other equivalent expression? There is no other competent authority, is there?

    Fourthly, suppose that a bishop does not offer his resignation when asked, then what? It seems that he would continue to reign validly if illicitly. Is that the case?

  4. dans0622 says:

    I suppose it (art. 5) is an improvement to have this in writing but Dr. Peters is right: the Pope, up to now, could have always communicated to a bishop: “It would be wise for you to submit your resignation in accord with c .401.2.” Since we have had these recent occasions where bishops were “removed”, it seems that those bishops did not, in fact, submit resignations. In the future, they can’t be compelled to submit a resignation. Art. 5 is still only a request, as in c. 401. So, what has been gained? Not much. I don’t see what is preventing the Pope from adding “removal” to c. 416, along with the promulgation of some process for removal, along the lines of removal of pastors (cc. 1740-1747). If removal is going to happen, and it is inevitable that it will happen again, let’s get a process in place.

  5. Rob22 says:

    I think the Pope and his Vatican are setting up a situation in which their agenda (sorry, I should have set vision) for the Church continues long after this papacy is over. Hate to be political but it mirrors to some degree Obama’s court appointment which will be in place for decades after he leaves in 2016.

    Political – oy vey! But it is what it is. Rod Dreher’s most current column talks about one of the reasons he converted to Orthodoxy was the politicization of the liturgy in the Catholic Church. Something not seen in the Orthodox church. He is letting his evangelical roots come through as he more and more appears to be trying to evangelize Catholics. His right and keep that in consideration when/if you read his blog. Still, has does make some valid points.

  6. Daniel W says:

    dans0622: “I don’t see what is preventing the Pope from adding “removal” to c. 416, along with the promulgation of some process for removal”

    I think the process for the removal of a bishop by the pope is sufficiently outlined in cc. 331, 333 and 334 and related canons.
    The theological basis is pretty clear in Mat 16:19. The obligation comes from Luke 22: 32 – strengthen other bishops by summary removal of the weaker links. The precedent for summary decisions (regarding the “execution” of a “removal”) and their effective use to unite the “whole” Church (kata-HOLOS) is found in Acts 5: 11.

    Pope Francis realizes we are very much at war. He is not only into healing the wounded in field hospitals —-summary execution is not always out of the question during war. It’s great to see both the left and right falling into line among the episcopacy.

  7. Tim Ferguson says:

    Canon 59 – a rescript, by definition, comes at the request of someone. Who asked for this rescript? Will we ever know?

  8. Pingback: Da Tech Guy Blog » Blog Archive » Hey Remember last week when the Pope talked about families?

  9. Bea says:

    Sounds like a “right to purge’ according to Papal whims. (or “ideologies”?)